Saturday, December 29, 2007

Feeling blah

That just zipped by too fast, didn't it?

Our Christmas day was nice and relaxing, but everything up to and then after has seemed to be at break neck speed for me. I have so much that I feel was left undone. Especially all the fabric I bought to make little gifts and ornaments and stockings. It's all folded up and some of it is still in the bags I brought them home in. Maybe I'll get it out in September next year, instead of waiting until December to even think about that sort of thing.

My birthday is Monday, and I've been thinking about my age a lot. I know it's just a number, but I feel a LOT younger than 39. Is it possible that this is my last year in my 30's? How did that happen? I can't say I'm depressed about it, but I am feeling a little weird.

So not only am I thinking about some resolutions for the new year, I'm thinking about how I want 39 to look. There's a lot of reflection going on here, people!

I've got the usual suspects, of course... drink more water, lose more weight, get organized, but can I just say, BLECH!

I love what Ali Edwards does every year. She chooses 'one little word' and that is what she tries to cultivate for the year. Isn't that neat? My problem is choosing just one word. I think in phrases, like, Be A Grown Up, or Take a Breath, or Don't Be So Negative or Give Yourself a Break.

I think what I really need is a big do-over.

I need to start fresh with a totally clean and organized house. No piles, no excess. Why do I hang on to so much crap?

I need to go back to my wonderful eating habits and forget these 10 pounds I've packed on since Thanksgiving. (I really, really thought I had a handle on all of that, but evidently my eating monster has not been fully quieted.)

I NEED to start every day having had a full nights sleep. There's nothing worse than starting a new day feeling like the old day is still with me.

Do-over is hyphenated, so I don't think that counts. How about Fresh? Yeah, I think I like that.

Fresh can encompass my house keeping, my sleeping habits, the ability to give myself a break every now and then. Start clean, look forward, stay positive.

Off to bed for me, so I can start off tomorrow... Fresh!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Blessings, my friends

Merry Christmas. May God truly bless you during this season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How my girlies entertain themselves on long car rides

I have finally downloaded pictures from Sprite's camera from our travels this summer. There are a lot of shots just like these.

The first requirement for any long drive is bringing along every last thing you own. My little back seat dwellers have to squeeze their bodies in to their spots, but they are happy that way, so I let 'em.

Donuts! There are about fifty pictures of food signs, lots of cloud shapes and of course, hay!
They love to shout, Hey! To make me jerk upright from a light doze wondering why they need to be seperated now, but they really mean "Hay". They think it's funny.

There are also at least a dozen pictures of various rocks, up the nose shots and freckle shots. Yup, that's right. Close up of freckles, moles, beauty marks, what have you.
The End. Thank God for digital cameras.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A new hat

This is the first item I have made that has been made up out of my own head. No pattern except for what I wanted, when I wanted it. Does that make me a designer now?

I'm pretty proud of myself. The biggest compliment was when my oldest daugther asked if we could share it.

I'm still on the hunt for the perfect winter hat. I love this red one that Kristen Dunst wears in Elizabethtown. (One of my favorite movies, by the way, except for the Susan Sarandan parts, which I hate).

Mine is a little too tall, I like the rounder, flat on top look like the red one.

I will keep practicing. Unless, of course, any of you knitters out there can direct me to a ready made pattern similar to this one. I don't HAVE to design the thing, I just want one!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Still love it

I know I posted this last year, found courtesy of Sarah Louise. Just couldn't resist again!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My short day out

This morning I woke up, exercised, knitted two rows, took a shower and then had the most unbearable feeling that if I didn't get out of town, and get out quick, that I might just explode.

I told my husband I had some errands to run, but he's smarter than that, so I had to confess that I was on my way to Target, in the Big City, and that if I didn't have a Starbucks latte in the next 45 minutes that I would begin to scream and who knows when that would have ended.

He sent me off with his blessing, after he tried a couple ways to deter me. But I would not be deterred.

I left at 10:22 and by 10:59 I had a sugar free vanilla latte with whip in my hands. Explosion averted.

I had a great bit of alone time, swimming in a sea of faces that were not recognizable to me. It was quite a relief. I did run into a couple of people from my small town, but I just kept on moving after a little bit of small talk.

I headed to Old Navy, Kohl's, Aeropostal (who had the most amazing 70% off rack!), Bath and Body (better get there quick if you want any more Vanilla Bean Noel lotion, they are almost out), and then finished up at Target. I got a little something for everyone and feel like I got a good start on my Christmas list.

I could have stayed all day, but had to be back to pick up kids from school. It was good, though. Really, really good.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Seven random things about me

I'm not sure if I've ever done one of these things or not, but they are going around the blogs I read, so I think I will try to jump on the band wagon. Let's see what I get...

1) I love all types of office supplies. I can keep myself quite busy in a Staples. Sharpie pens are my favorite, but any type of organization system, paper supply, desk equipment, etc. makes me quite happy.

2) I believe that pajamas are a gift from God and that everyone should own a pair. There is nothing quite like a Sunday afternoon in flannel bottoms.

3) If big foot isn't out there now, I think that once he was there. I was raised in the Pacific Northwest so I feel that my opinion is the right one. I also believe in the Loch Ness monster. :)

4) In my non-scientific opinion, I believe that time travel is totally possible. How else do you explain deja vu? I'm working on my theory. Maybe I'll post about it sometime.

5) I was required in elementary school to cross all my 7's and Z's and close the tops of my 4's. As an adult, I have found that this bothers some people but I can't break myself of the habit.

6) I rarely buy things online/mail order because shipping costs really bother me. I have to really love something or not be able to find it in a store before I'll order it through the mail.

7) I eat a lot of taco salads. It's my 'go-to' meal when I can't think of anything else to make.

Pretty random, I guess. Now, I'm off to make dinner. Taco salads, it is!

Friday, December 07, 2007

A bad start

Have you ever noticed how bad days always start on the day before.

I had big ambitions to get the whole house clean, the bottom floor at the very least, in order to pull out all the Christmas decorations. But, life happened and I didn't get everything done. Decking the halls will be postponed for just a bit.

Yesterday was a good day, even though I didn't get my to do list finished. But, because of the unfinished list, and the decision to stay up late and watch TV, this morning was not a pleasant one.

Woke up, didn't exercise. Woke up again, 30 minutes late. Grabbed a shower, did my makeup (with the new Loreal minerals stuff, which I LOVE!!) put in the hot rollers of doom... Note to self, hot rollers in a rush only provides poofy hair. Didn't eat breakfast, didn't make my tea. Wasn't gentle on a tangled head, couldn't find a sports jersey, was guilted to death because of said jersey... now he's going to serve a detention and it's all my fault... Ugh. Late to work, dressed all wonky, hair all wonky...


I get to have Chinese food at lunch with a friend.

I did get a shower, so even though I'm not dressed right for work, at least I smell good. (Seriously, I look like how my children look when I'm not at home and my husband sends them to school. He's an awesome dad, but he doesn't care about the shoes matching the outfit and the if there are too many sparkles or if pig tails have symmetry. In other words, I'm looking a little sad today).

I have tomorrow off, so I can catch up on everything I didn't do Thursday and transform my home into a Christmas paradise this weekend.

Oh, and if I look some more I'm sure I will find multiple ways to pull myself out of this bad beginning and have a much more pleasant middle and end. Send up a little prayer for me!

Off to work. I'll put on a smile and no one will even notice the other stuff.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Another thrifty find

I took this picture in the bathroom at work. I didn't want you to think I had a baby changing table attached to my wall at home!

I got this jacket at my favorite consignment store for eight bucks. It wasn't sure about it, but I got quite a few unsolicited comments about it yesterday. It has little silver threads running through it, so I think people thought I looked festive.

I love it. I wore it to my anniversary lunch and to work. It fits great and the price was definitely right.

It's not something I would have picked out if it was new and expensive, but it's nice to try out a new look. They had a few coco channel looking numbers that I might go back and try.

Thank goodness for thrift stores to help us get out of our courdoroy and sweater ruts!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I've been married TWENTY!! years

Yesterday I got married, and then blinked.

Today I have four kids, two dogs, a cat, a mortgage and a wonderfully blessed life.

A lot can happen in the space of a blink.

I love you, honey. Thanks for the ride.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cookie Walk

The big fund raiser for the middle school here is called the cookie walk.

Every family has to donate six dozen cookies and then the community comes out to choose a variety of their favorite cookies, which then makes it unnecessary to bake their own cookies.

It's a pretty good system and I love it, because people pay me to bake their six dozen. I don't, however, participate in the actual purchasing of other cookies. It grosses me out. I don't know what kind of kitchen those cookies came out of, or if you smoke or washed your hands or had the flu. I can't help it.

But, if you are my friend and you bake for me, I will accept your gift. I have been in your house, after all.

Cookie making is a messy business. I'm still trying to bleach out food coloring on my counter.

The left over frosting was put to good use. My daughter's went to town on all the left over cut-outs and did a pretty good job, too.

Monday, December 03, 2007


This weekend my daughter and I went to the Big-Big city, (as opposed to the big city which is only 40 minutes away) for the Iowa State Dance team championships.

Can I just say... it was totally awesome. So much fun to watch my little perform with such confidence in a great big place. They took away second in the light division and had a division rating in the pom segment. They were 4 tenths away from another division rating in the kick routine, which was great, but there were some other pretty great kickers out there.

The most fun was the all guys groups. You'd think the chippendales had walked in with the way the girls all went crazy. All the boys were total nerds, but for three minutes, they were rock stars. Look out, Soulja Boy.

Big hair is alive and well in Iowa.

We also got to go to a real mall in Des Moines. A lovely, wonderful mall with Starbucks and Pottery Barn and great big giant ornaments draping off the ceilings. It's probably a good thing that I don't have access to malls like that everyday.

I'm really proud of the girls on our squad. They acted like ladies and their sportsmanship was incredible.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Click on this

Go here to decorate Jenny Harris's super cute gingerbread house with virtual candy.

So much fun. Thank you, Jenny!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ack, it's cookie time again!

This is what I'll be doing for the next couple of days.

I will be making 24 dozen cut outs (six dozen for myself, and three other women are PAYING! me to do theirs).

I love to make cookies, but the amount of cookies I need to make is a little daunting. And here I sit blogging instead of getting busy in the kitchen.

It's a busy week, with work, cookies and I get to be a chaperone for the state drill team championship, in which my oldest daughter is a participant! Can't wait.

But first, cookies!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I'm afraid it happened too early

This morning, at 10:51 am I had that all-of-a-sudden burst of warmth in my being that can only be described as the Christmas Spirit. The urge to wrap, bake, and be merry enveloped me in a big swoosh of loving my fellow man goodness.

The only problem is that I try to hold this feeling off until after Thanksgiving, December 1st, even. I always feel like I get the most out of fall if I don't rush into the Christmas season too early. I usually feel it creeping up on me and I can push it back down, but today, it zeroed in and whammied me.

Now, how do I solve this problem? I either fully embrace my candy cane mood, (But I fear peaking too early. Nothing worse than an anti-climactic Christmas because it should have taken place on the 14th instead of the 25th.) Or I try to hold it back, only to not get it again.

I'm opting for the full embrace.
Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!! Blessings to you and your families.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Loving November, Re-run Style

Click here to see what I wrote last year 'round about this time. It's still applicable, so I won't fix what isn't broken.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Knitted Kimono

I am a maker of baby clothes. I am so proud. I only had to rip out six times.

Unfortunately, the baby will need to age about a year before being able to fit into it. Also, the yarn looked more feminine when it was on the skein, so I worry about it being a little boy-ish. Oh well.

Baby wear is right up there on the instant gratification scale of knitting.

Next up... Blocking and sewing up the sweater I finished for myself last winter. Then I will be an official knitter of adult wear.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sister Swap

This month I got to have the fun experience of participating in my first internet swap.

Carrie and her sister sponsored an internet swap with "Cozy" as the theme. They paired us up and gave us a couple of interview questions about what cozy means to us and how we celebrate the holidays. Then we filled a box for each other.

Here is what I sent. The rolled up ball is the pair of wrist warmers that I showed a few posts back.

Here is what I received from Karyn. I think I definitely got the better end of the deal! I am so excited about the books, hot chocolate, bath supplies, candles... just about everthing you need for a cozy time. Even the box is cute! The dish clothes will definitely be for display only. They are too cute and nice to really use.

This was my first swap and I had a lot of fun. Thank you so much, Karyn, for the very thoughtful gifts.

There were about fifty women who participated and they are all linked over at Carrie's blog. I look forward to looking over everyone's boxes and adding new blogs to my favorites.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bathroom before and after

My oldest daughter often complains that she feels like she is living in a baked potato. Brown and beige is the standard in our house. Not because we like it that way, it's just how it is.

I have finally taken charge of the situation! I started small with the bathroom, but colors have been chosen for the living area and the kitchen, too.

I didn't really choose the bathroom color, it sort of chose me. I am a very thrifty, frugal type. I like nice things, but if I can get it cheap, or better yet, free then I'm happy!

I thrifted this new flat bed sheet for $3.00 to turn into the shower curtain, valance and wall hanging. Not sure I like the wall hanging, but something had to go there.

The paint is a mistint that I got for $5.oo. It was extremely nice paint, no splatters or gobs or drips. I think it normally goes for $30.00 gallon. Of course, you can't choose your color for that price, but the color wasn't totally gross, so I got it.

Good bye, ugly palm trees!

It's not my dream bathroom, but it's not potato colored anymore! I think it will be nice for winter and then I will change out all the blue stuff for a pretty springy shower curtain that I got for $2.00 from another thrift store. It was new, too! It's amazing how many people donate never used things.

I purchased a new paint brush, some rollers, and blue tape. My project total probably came to under $35.00. Makes me wonder why I wait so long to make a change.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Clean Sheet Day!

Clean sheet day is the best day of the week. And the best night of sleep. I always take a shower right before bed on clean sheet day. Ahh! Fresh jammies, clean hair and unrumpled, vanilla lavendar softened sheets. Yum.

That is why these pants really appeal to me. Ingenious to use high thread count, softened over the years sheet fabric to make pajama bottoms. I don't know why I didn't think of it before.

Reducing, re-using and recycling at it's best.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Last year at this time...

I am having angst right now about showing my daughter's face on my blog. I haven't ever done that, but some of you do and I can guess that you haven't had any trouble, so I'm going to this once. I can always yank it if I still feel weird about it tomorrow.

We have a family tradition for birthdays. Everyone gets to pick their birthday meal, and everyone usually picks Red Robin. Every now and then, there is a Chuck E. Cheese thrown in, but we can usually count on at least a few trips to our favorite burger place each year.

The picture of us in black is from this time last year. The new picture (me in white) is just a couple days ago.

I've been losing weight this year, and I guess I didn't realize the transformation I've been going through until my daughter pointed these out to me. I've lost over 60 pounds (most of it from my face it seems, yikes!)

When I was younger, I just wanted to lose weight to look better in my clothes. This time around I was battling high blood pressure, borderline depression and I was one cookie away from being diabetic. It was all about getting healthy and staying alive. My dad died at 41 and since I am just a hop, skip and jump away from forty I decided I wanted to be around a little longer than he was.

Still, I sometimes can't get over the physical transformation I've gone through and am still going through. I love it. I feel great now that I don't have to melt myself down and pour myself into clothes that don't fit.

I am so very grateful to my friends who have helped me along this path and the steps that I have learned to become and stay a healthy person. Maybe blogging helped play a small, little part, too. Not that I'm pouring my heart out over here or anything, but I can come here and write a little and share some things about my life. So, thank you, too, friends.

So, I'm in a great mood! I'm feeling hopeful and thankful and ready for life.

Thanks for letting me share this triumph with you.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Cute thrifty find

Found these at our new thrift store. I wish there would have been more of them. I think they are the perfect fall colors. Plus, they were only $.07 each!

I'm trying to decide how I want to use them. I might keep pens and such in them on my desk, or use them to fill up with candy for little gifts. Or maybe just use them to drink out of. We'll see.

I am in the process of switching out all of our plastic containers to glass. I've been on the hunt for small, old corning ware casserole dishes with lids. I need lids! I've had pretty good luck with our thrift stores but they still want quite a bit for them.

If your grandma decides to clean out her cupboards, let me know!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

knitty girl

Doesn't that look cozy? Fresh washed hair, a big fluffy robe and a new knitting project.

It always makes me happy when one of my children wants to learn to do something that I enjoy. So far they are all avid readers and it looks like I will have one or two knitters.

It's been hitting me lately how fast they are all growing up. We've been so busy, especially now that we have one in high school. I don't want life to pass by too quickly.

I love this stage of life, though. No more diaper bags and car seats. Everyone can peddle their own bike. We can all play the same board games. The only problem now that the younger ones have caught up, is that the older ones always have something else to do.

I'm glad for quiet projects that force us to sit and be together and savor the moments.

Puzzles, yarn and yahtzee! A great recipe for family time and the long winter ahead.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Delayed gratification

My little Sprite and I planted tulip bulbs today.

They are in the ground, and now we wait. We wait for them to lie dormant, for snow to cover the ground and for the eventual re-warming period that we think will never come. Then sometime in May, we will have beautiful flowers. Yay!

Spring seems a long time to wait to reap the benefits of our hard labor. But, of course, we know it will be worth it.

There is snow in the forecast for next week. Fall is much too short here, and spring is a long, long time away. But our little patch of fresh dug earth will remind us that we have something to look forward to.

Tulips are such hopeful little flowers.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I'm cute, but I'm not THAT cute...

Our family computer is in our bedroom, which is on the first floor right next to our main living space. This means my bedroom, which should be a place of peaceful sanctuary, is taken over by im-ers, msn-ers, homework doers, e-bay-ers and such.

There can also be extra kids in my room, which is embarrassing, because I know all their moms keep their rooms much cleaner than I do, but that's another topic. Anyway, most of my kid's friends know what room to find them in.

So I was not too surprised to discover a teenage boy jumping up a few feet to knock on my window, trying desperately to get my attention. I think I caught him off guard when I went to the window to ask if he thought I was my daughter.

There are teenage boys banging on my house. Sigh. I am the mother of a teenage girl.

At least I can take small comfort in the fact that the back of my pony-tailed head still looks girlish. But I am not looking forward to shooing boys away from my lovely daughter for the forseeable future.

And to think, I have two more girls who will be teenagers someday, too.

Loving this girl right now

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!!

That's about as scary as it comes. Have a safe halloween and don't eat too much candy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The powers that be...

have moved Halloween! (Clip taken out of our local paper) Which actually works for me because I work Wednesday nights.

Can you imagine wielding the type of power to actually move trick or treating? It makes me wonder who handed down this edict. And what do I have to do to get her job? My daughter's birthday falls on a unconvenient day for me. I'd like to change that.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Annoying (but very funny) mom sayings...

This is going around town with my mommy friends. Thought you all might enjoy, too!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

One down, one to go

I've been cabling away! I love these wrist warmers. They are so easy to make and are great gifts. I got the idea from Suse last year and have made a couple of pair. Someday I will make some for me to keep.
The color is somewhere in between these two pictures. It's hard to take a photo of your own hand.
I would like to make a matching pair of mary jane slippers, but we'll see how I do getting the second hand done. These are going to be shipped away and I have a deadline. I have been in a real knitty mood, though, lately, so I may be able to pound them out.
Don'cha just love fall?
Next up... this guy.

Love it!

Have you seen Pushing Daisies? Such a beautiful looking show. Bright colors, great clothes. And the dialogue is so very funny. Snappy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dog Rescue

Tonight on my walk I saw my dog wandering around my neighborhood. I called him and he came, but was squirmy and he kept pulling his head out of his collar.

I knocked at a stranger's door to ask to borrow a leash. This is small town America where you can borrow stuff from strangers. They had one handy and I said I would be right back.

Well... the closer I got to home, the more this dog didn't look right. He seemed a little heavier and lighter colored. When I came to our front door, I knocked and asked my husband, "Is this our dog?"

It wasn't. In my defense, it was dark out. I am not a dog thief.

I got the dog back to where he belonged, where he promptly ran off again, but the owner didn't seem too terribly worried. I returned the leash and came home to take a good, hard look at my dog.

I'm glad I wasn't bitten.

One Semester of Spanish - Love Song

One Semester of Spanish - Love Song (Subtitles)

I lied! I did really want to learn. Thanks, blackbird, for helping me out. I feel silly at how easy it is.

Enjoy the video!

Monday, October 15, 2007

A reeelly, reeelly good deal

I got four (4!) new skirts. Very cute for very little money!

Just look at that price tag. That's about a thousand percent off.

I also got the pretty green sweater for under ten bucks. Now I just need to visit my local friendly consignment store for a couple of sweaters to round off my fall wardrobe.

I'll also start hunting for a cute pair of boots and gets some tights. I'll get what feels like a whole new wardrobe for less than $100.00.

I love a good deal.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Because I don't know how and don't care to learn

I would like to upload these videos for you to see. I thought I could do it, but then it just stalls and doesn't upload and the computer jams up and, oh! the frustrations.

So here are some links to stuff I like.
This is funnier to me now that I work at a library.

Medieval Help Desk

THE PRETENDER... I really, really love this video. It makes me want to go out and fight some foo.

Thank you very much for your kind comments on my previous post.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Time to De-lurk

I don't think I have many, if any, lurkers, but if you are out there, now is the time to make yourself known. It's national de-lurk day!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

look, it's a lipogram

A lipogram is a poem written with some kind of restraint. Here is mine, using only the left side of my keyboard (except the comma, I had to use the comma).

see red trees ~ tread far, carefree daze
qwest fer rest, easy days
far few, fewer
crazed drawer fever
dratted sad wear

Now a real poet wouldn't feel constrained to tell you what her poem was about, but I can't help myself. I'm not a real poet. It's about how every fall I am compelled to clean closets and dressers after periods of doing nothing.

Go here to see how it's really done. This guy is a real poet.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


I had my first "crunchy" walk of fall yesterday. I stayed very close to the curb to get the maximum depth of leaves to take full advantage of the crunch. I'm sure I looked like a crazy person, but I didn't care.

The birds are beginning to abandon their nests and I am all of the sudden ready to build mine.

I want to paint the living room, get out the sewing machine, start my own esty shop, finish the knitting and crocheting things I left behind in May, write a book... maybe even blog a bit! I want everything clean, clean, clean and smelling fresh. I want open windows and hot tea and bread in the oven and friends at my table.

It makes me so sad sometimes, that these moments are just spurts for me. I want to make a lovely home (a la Sally Clarkson) where there is peace and good smells and quiet talks. But mostly there is chaos and a busy feeling and messes and piles and calendars and STUFF!

I really am not busy just for the sake of being busy. I tend to dislike people who sigh and tell me how much busier they are than everyone else. I have the job, two teenagers and two littles and laundry and errands, no different from any other gal out there. I love it. I just wish I did it better, balanced easier.

So, all this to say, fall is here! With it's slower pace and cooler 'in-door' days I hope to get the initiative to get things pulled together. And figure out how to keep it together. I have the desire, it's just to the point where I don't know how to start.

But I will start! First thing Monday. :)

With that, I will leave you with this quote that I saw on someone else's blog recently... If your house is really a mess and a stranger comes to the door, greet him with "Who could have done this? We have no enemies." - Phyllis Diller

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I need...

HGTV to come and spiff up my house.

the people on the animal channel to come and train my pets to not scratch or sit on the new furniture the HGTV people will give me.

Gunnar Peterson to work his magic on my abs with his Core Secrets.

the Super Nanny to come train my children to pick up their dirty clothes and do their chores without having to be nagged to death.

Extreme Makover people to give me a really nice hair cut.

Bare Essentials. I really, really do!

I'm an infomercial/prime time special just waiting to happen.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Meet a new author... Nicole Baart

It's always so exciting for me to read the first novel of a new author. This time is special because this author is practically my neighbor as just a few country miles separate us.

I'd like to introduce you to Nicole Baart, author of After the Leaves Fall. (Isn't she cute?)

From the back of the book:

Julia Bakker's life has been marked by loss. After her mother leaves and her father dies when she's just sixteen, Julia is determined to escape the confines of her gossipy, conservative Christian town.

When her best friend and first love, Thomas, breasks her heart, Julia leaves for college - the perfect place to reinvent herself. But one wrong decision changes her life forever, and she returns to her grandmothers's farm, weary and defeated.

Yet hope takes root in unexpected places and Julia discovers that starting over looks nothing like she imagined.

I had the opporunity to get my hands on an advanced reader copy and thoroughly enjoyed this book. I also was able to ask Nicole a few questions and here are her responses.

I really liked your book. I felt that it was very different from what is typically known as "Christian Fiction". Was it your goal to be a little different?

Yes, I suppose it was. I feel bad admitting this, but I spent many years of my life avoiding Christian fiction because I thought it was too trite, too filled with easy answers. As a Christian who is also an author, I have always longed for meaningful fiction that can speak honestly about God, but that can also wrestle with doubts and uncertainty. A few years ago I read Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and it was very eye-opening for me. It wasn’t a Christian fiction book, and yet I thought the person of God just poured off the page. I had never read a more “Christian” book. When I wrote After the Leaves Fall, I wanted to do something like that. I wanted to subtly yet powerfully show the beauty of the Lord without being preachy or pretentious. I think I’ll spend the rest of my career trying to do that.
Who is your targeted audience?

On paper, my target audience is women of nearly any age. Angela Hunt endorsed After the Leaves Fall by saying: “If you are a daughter, a mother, or a grandmother, this book will touch your heart.” But I’d like to think that my audience could be wider than that. My writing partner and first draft editor is a man, and he loved the book. My husband and father love the book. Other men in my life have enjoyed it… I’d like for it to be universally appealing, but that’s for the audience to decide, not me.

Did you send out a lot of queries to get published? What was your journey to publishing?

I’ve been told I should never answer this question honestly because my story is so atypical! I sent out one query for publication and it resulted in a two-book contract with Tyndale House Publishing. Very unusual. The whole thing was like a dream. I submitted 50 pages of a manuscript, they requested to see the rest of it, and they offered me a contract. Crazy. I still can’t quite believe it.

This is a famous question among my friends... Dark or Milk chocolate?
Oh definitely dark. I absolutely love dark chocolate.
What are your goals as a writer?

This is probably going to sound really cheesy, but I just want to write. My life’s dream has always been to get a book published and now I’ve done that! How exciting! I’m trying to be content with that and not give in to my perfectionist nature by striving for the next best thing. My mind can start to play tricks on me and tell me that now it’s not enough to just be published--now I have to sell lots of copies or win some award or do something extraordinary. But I want to take things as they come and let God continue to unfold this fun adventure as he sees fit.
Some authors talk about thinking about a theme or a tag line for their body of writing. What do you think about that?

I think it’s a nice idea for people who can come up with a tag line that encompasses everything their writing is (or all they hope it will be). It sounds very daunting to me because I don’t know what I’ll be writing ten years from now. So for me to come up with some sort of a theme and then find myself moving in a different direction would be rather problematic. But if something brilliant came up I don’t think I’d be opposed to it!
Do you have a critique group or a workshop group that you attend? If so, what is that experience like? And if not, how do you get feedback and criticism for your work?

No, I have never attended a formal workshop or critique group. I do, however, have a wonderful writing partner and friend who edits all of my work. We’ve been working together for almost five years and I would absolutely be lost without him. He is very honest with me (sometimes brutally so!) but I welcome it. I actually love the editorial process. The best part is, Todd is also one of my biggest fans. He is very supportive and encouraging even when he’s telling me some particular aspect of my writing is absolute junk.
Is writing hard work for you? Is it fun or a chore?

So much fun. I love writing and I always look forward to sitting down with pen in hand.

Is there an author from the CBA world that you admire?

From what I’ve read on her website, I think Lisa Samson is a very neat woman. I hope to pick up some of her books soon. I also made a connection with new author Lisa McKay. I can’t wait to read her debut novel My Hands Came Away Red. And I’ve always loved Francine Rivers.
What is your writing uniform? Jammies? Jeans and T-shirt?

It changes every day, though I actually find that I feel better when I’m dressed nicely and feeling good about myself. It’s hard to take myself seriously in my pajamas. Usually I just get up and get ready for my day, wearing whatever I’d normally wear: jeans a nice shirt… Whatever I’m in the mood for.

It sounds like you write whenever you have a spare minute. How do you turn on the focus for such short bursts of time?

Whatever I am currently writing is always brewing in the back of my mind. Often I come up with a concept or even a specific line at different points throughout my day. Pen and paper are never far from hand in my house, and my purse is always equipped and ready. So I’m kind of writing all the time. Dropping into focus isn’t a difficult thing to do. However, sometimes weeks or months later I’ll find a scrap of paper and go, “Oh darn! That was good, I was going to include that!”
What advice would you give to an as of yet unpublished author.

That’s a hard question to answer because I don’t feel like I am in any position to give advice. But if you pressed me to say something, I guess I would suggest that any author (published or not) should spend more time writing than trying to promote their writing. Know what I’m saying? Good writing speaks for itself and that only results when you are practicing, honing your skills. If you are too obsessed about getting your work out there, I think you stand the chance of forgetting why you are doing this in the first place. Those of us who write do so because we love to write. We write because God created us with an innate desire to put words on paper. And when we deny that, when we’re more concerned about what the world thinks of our writing than what God thinks of our writing, we forget that he is the only audience that matters. Maybe that sounds overly idealistic, but I really do believe that. I’m not always capable of actively living out that worldview, but I’m trying! It’s a journey, right?

Thank you so much, Nicole! I wish you the best success and look forward to reading the rest of Julia's story in your next book.

If you would like to look at the other blogs featuring this book, go here.